A white Atlanta-area police officer who shot a naked, mentally ill black veteran who was unarmed has been indicted on felony murder and other charges.
The decision came on Thursday after DeKalb County prosecutors presented their case against Officer Robert Olsen, who fatally shot Anthony Hill on 9 March 2015 while responding to a call of a naked man behaving erratically outside a suburban Atlanta apartment complex.
The family of the 27-year-old Hill says the US air force veteran struggled with mental health problems. Tensions between police and minorities have risen across the country in the aftermath of a series of shootings mostly involving white law enforcement officers and unarmed African-American men. However, critics in Hill’s case, including his family, have focused more on his mental health than on his race, and on whether force should have been used because he was unarmed.
DeKalb County district attorney Robert James said a warrant had been issued for Olsen’s arrest. After announcing the indictment, James said prosecutors presented evidence for eight hours but declined to give many other details.
Olsen was indicted on two counts each of felony murder and violating his oath of office and one count each of aggravated assault and making a false statement.
The felony murder counts do not indicate malice, but rather that Olsen killed someone during the commission of another felony, in this case aggravated assault or violation of his oath of office, James said. Olsen violated the department’s use of force policy and lied during the investigation, falsely saying Hill hit him in the chest before the shooting, James said.
Olsen’s attorney, Don Samuel, said they were disappointed in the grand jury’s decision, but he noted the defense was not allowed to present any witnesses, experts or evidence and was not allowed to challenge any of the prosecution’s evidence.
Georgia law allows police officers to be present during grand jury proceedings when they are accused of crimes in the course of their official duties and to make a statement at the end of the proceedings that the prosecution cannot question or challenge. Samuel said Olsen spoke before the grand jury for about 20 minutes.
Christopher Chestnut, an attorney for Hill’s family, said it was a historic day and that he hopes the indictment in this case sets a precedent.
A crowd of several dozen outside the courthouse burst into cheers upon hearing the decision and repeatedly chanted: “All six counts.”
Hill’s mother, Carolyn Giummo, thanked the crowd, some of whom had camped on a patch of grass outside the courthouse for several days to show their support. She said she’s grateful the grand jury reached the decision it did.
“The message is that you have to be accountable for your own actions,” Giummo said. “When you decide to do something, if it’s not right, there are consequences and you have to be held accountable for it.”
Hill’s family in November filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the DeKalb County police department, Olsen, the county and its board of commissioners.
This is a reprint from the Guardian – view original article here.